Bridges News — AAC


iOS 7 Switch Access -- First Impressions 0

To much fanfare, iOS7 has added switch settings to its many other accessibility features.  Recently I had a chance to play around with the switch settings in iOS 7. 

[to see the latest in accessories to help you with iPad switch users  -- mounting, cases, storage, charging, and training -- visit the Bridges' iPad page]

In general, I found they are really good for accessing all the menus and desktop icons.  If a program already has scanning built in- it runs great. If the program does not have scanning built in, it will look for the hot spots and scan groups or single items, depending on the settings you choose.

One nice feature in the new iOS 7 is that there is an available on screen scanning menu. While using switch control, when a user selects an item they will encounter a pop-up menu that contains a variety of advanced functions. If a user selects Scroll, Gestures, Device, or Settings from the pop-up menu, they will be presented with a second menu of options that have more advanced actions and settings for Switch Control. Those popup menus have all the feature options that a touch user would have.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="287"]Image cover of iO7 switch control book For a great resource download iOS 7 Switch Control The Missing User Guide by Ablenet[/caption]

Some of the features you can customize for scanners are:

  • Auto Scanning
  • Auto Scanning Time
  • Pause on First Item
  • Loops
  • Auto Tap
  • Move Repeat
  • Hold Duration
  • Ignore Repeat
  • Group on
  • Group off

I have not played with all the features and I am sure there are some additional good ones. Overall it is pretty good. Sometimes when it is looking for hot spots to scan, I did not understand the logic of how it grouped items but I think that would just need some playing with to figure out.

Overall a nice addition to iOS 7. In my testing, I used an Applicator switch interface and the new Piko extra durable switches from Finland.  In previous iOS's, switch interfaces piggy-backed on top of the Voice Over features designed for visually impaired users. With the new iOS 7 it looks like any Bluetooth switch interface for the iPad (including the coming soon Blue2™ switch shown in the video above) will be able to deliver a rich array of switch scanning features.

--Claire MacLaren

Alberta Sales Consultant, Accessibility Specialist, Bridges

Oh Wow! Parents React to Medical Communication Book 0

Showing new communication tools for close to two decades, I've heard plenty of "Oh Wow’s" from parents. But two fairly recent products at opposing ends of the cost, and the hi/low tech spectrum, have produced more jaw drops and exclamations of “this will change my child’s life!” than I've ever experienced before.

One is eye-gaze technology;  seeing your kid quickly, easily work a computer with a hi-tech camera system when previously, nothing else worked is incredible and often moving.

The inside and back cover of Widgit's First Response Communication book.[/caption] But the other product that has consistently blown parents away – in this case parents with children on the autism spectrum – is The Widgit First Response Communication Book.

Widgit's First Response Communication book.

The inside and back cover of Widgit’s First Response Communication book.

The washable, durable medical communication book was designed for First Responders – ambulance crews, emergency room doctors, fire, police, etc.  The pages are so thoughtfully organized, that it is ideal for anybody who needs communication help in a medical scenario.

I was recently meeting with some parents of children on the autism spectrum who had experienced long hospital stays. They spent an hour recalling one procedure after another that should have been routine that turned into traumatic crises. Often, the root of the problem was mis-communication -- their children couldn't explain what they wanted or needed.  Just as common, the medical personnel couldn't convey what was going to happen and why.  The verdict of these parents was the same as what I’ve heard so many times before – The First Response Communication Book. would have solved so many problems.

Clarify Communication, Avoid Crisis:

Research presented at the 2013 Geneva Centre Autism symposium by researchers from Sickkids Toronto and Glenrose Hospital, Edmonton, (“Autism Comes to the Hospital: Experiences of Hospital Care from the Perspectives of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Their Parents and Health Care Providers,” Muskat, Roberts and Zwaigenbaum, et. al.) summarized the communication challenges patients with autism face in a hospital whether they were verbal or non-verbal.

“... how frustrating it must be to be non-verbal and in pain somewhere in your body and you can’t tell someone...”

The researchers found that stressful and intimidating hospital environment  dramatically effected patients ability to not only be understood but to understand what was being communicated to them. They recorded how when patients felt intimidated and anxious because of the medical setting, they will  often give the impression that they understand the doctor or nurse even if they didn't at all.

The result of this chronic mis-communication was anything from confusion, anxiety, to behaviours that resulted in the use of restraints and sedation.

“Unintentional Torture 

One parent at a conference described how difficult it was  for different nurses to understand that his son took needles in his right rather than his left arm.  “It was such a simple thing that would have made such a difference.  He could’ve just pointed to this picture here (gesturing at the Treatment section with the symbolized question “May I give you an injection...” in the First Response Communication Book), but instead ended-up in restraints. That’s a sort of unintentional torture.”

The First Response Communication book delivers quick and easy solutions for patients to communicate: A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

  • Pain – not just intensity but different types of pain (numbness, pins and needles etc.) and where it exists.
  • What’s wrong? – fall, injury, nausea, dizziness etc.
  • What happened?
Also responding to what doctors, nurses and any other caregivers try to communicate:
  • Explaining routine procedures – taking temperature, blood test, blood pressure.
  • Asking common questions:  when did you last eat, drink?  Event history for emergencies. Existing conditions and past medical history.
  • Describing what happens next – bandage,  injections, IV, ECG, going home, waiting for mom/dad etc.
The First Response Communication Book was recently purchased by the British Red Cross to go into every one of their ambulances.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky

NEW Look to Learn, Eye Gaze Assessment, Skill Building 2

In the past few weeks I've been out doing supporting eye-gaze system assessments for children.  I was using the C-series from ATI-Tobii and had great success.

 child using look to learn image

But comparing notes with my colleagues we observed the same challenges for the clinicians when running an assessment.  Of course the clinician wants to create the opportunity for success with eye-gaze and wants to engage a potential user with on-screen activities and prompts that are relevant and fun.   But at the end of the day, you need to have an accurate sense of whether eye-gaze is appropriate and functional for that child. And when dealing with children with complex physical, sensory, communication and cognitive challenges you often have a limited window before fatigue sets-in or attention wanders.  So there’s not a lot of time to customize an activity during the actual assessment to make sure it's engaging, relevant and fun. And if you’re part of a clinical team, wouldn't it be nice to be able to capture concretely what you experienced with that client to share at a later date?


Sensory’s new software package, Look to Learn, has 40 activities  targeting children starting out with eye-gaze technology that are designed for fun. The collection of activities is ideal for both improving access, choice making skills and for assessing potential eye-gaze users on any eye-gaze system eg.Tobii's, the Intelligaze from Alea or others. But neither the Grid nor any other AAC software is required -- Look to Learn works completely on its own. Care givers and family can easily customize some of the activities with their own pictures too. To see a YouTube Video of Look to Learn in Action click here. To download a trial version of Look to Learn click here.  look-2-learn-screen-shots Heat-Map-Analysis-300x220

Assessment: The built in analysis tool shows where somebody has looked on the screen during an activity in the form of a heat map. Heat maps can be saved, printed off and used to measure progress and record successes. Each activity develops a different skill, ranging from early cause and effect through to accurate eye gaze.   5 Areas Designed to teach cause and effect control with engaging animations, graphics and a sense of humour. Look to Learn is split into five key areas of learning and development:

  • Explore - Encourages the user to engage with the whole screenchoose
  • Target - Helps improve accuracy of eye gaze access
  • Choose - Develops choice making skills
  • Control - Fine tunes eye gaze access
Pre-AAC We’ve experiences a lot of success using eye-gaze at a pre-AAC level including girl’s with Rett syndrome.  Sensory’s similar experience in the UK inspired the development of Look to Learn which included extensive user testing.  The verdict is in -- kids love the activities! There are large numbers of children who can use eye gaze effectively but need a step-up to the communication boards in AAC software like the Grid 2 or Tobii communicator.  For these children, Look to Learn is ideal for practicing and improving eye-gaze skills.  And for clinicians its a great addition to their assessment tool kit.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky

Happy Birthday Grid Player, What’s Next? 0

The Grid Player has just celebrated its first birthday. Whoopee! With birthdays come presents, and the folks at Sensory Software have delivered  lots and lots of presents presents to Grid Player users. Unfamiliar with the Grid Player, get more info by heading here. Talking Photographs Yup, another new grid set! this useful set of talking images, using the Snaps Photo library, can be used to fire imagination for work, school or play. The Grid   Text Talker Phrasebook This grid set replaces the original Text Talker. It includes lots of phrases to enable fast communication for people who can read but not speak. There are also quick-response buttons on every grid for one word answers to questions. New Supported Retina Display  Grid Player 1.4 now supports the retina display available on the latest iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices, giving you higher resolution grids.  Great for displaying pictures with the previously referenced awesomeness of the Talking Photographs grid set. NOTE: For anyone creating a new online grids account you may notice that the keyboards are no longer included with Symbol Talker A and B or Text Talker. Existing Grid account holders will not lose keyboards from their grid sets. And any new Grid Player users, keyboards can be still be added via The Grid. Click here to check out our entire collection of The Grid, The Grid Player and all Grid Accessories!